The Saga of Russian Broomhandles

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Designed by the Feederle brothers in conjunction with Paul Mauser, over a million DWM Construktion 96 autoloading pistols– in addition to their M712 Schnellfeuer machine pistol brothers as well as unlicenced Spanish Astra/Royal/Azul and Chinese boxcannon clones– were crafted between 1896 and 1945. While never fully adopted by their home country, “Broomhandle” Mausers circled the world and have been seen in nearly every conflict large and small since the days of the Boer War (where a young Winston Churchill carried his London-bought “ripper” of a pistol during his work as a correspondent) and the Boxer rebellion.

Available on the commercial market in Imperial Russia for almost 20 years before the Great War ended importation, the C96 was a favorite for Russian officers, who had to buy their own sidearms and sword.

During the Russian Civil War, this love grew rabid as high-ranking Bolsheviks loved the big, flashy German-made automatic.

Red Guards of the Vulkan factory in Petrograd dressed in their Sunday best. Note the officer in the second row with his C96

Soviet commissars with C96 Mausers

Hell, they were even present (along with Browning FN 1900s, Nagant revolvers, and M1911 pistols) at the Romanov extermination. 

One favored user of the C96 was a four-time knight of St. George, former Imperial Dragoons Sgt. Maj. Semyon Budyonny, the impressively bewhiskered Red commander of the Konarmiya, the Bolshevik’s feared 1st Cavalry Army during the Russian Civil War and Russo-Polish War.

This guy

Reds of “Budyonny’s Cavalry Army” (Konarmia) the key Bolshevik fire brigade of the Russo-Polish War. Note the mix of French Adrian helmets, Cossack shapskas, and Trotsky Budenovka caps for headgear. Also, note the Cossack at the left is wearing the 1909 pattern officer’s web gear to include a trench whistle near his left armpit. As pre-Civil War Cossack officers in the Konarmia were rare, this officer has likely had an interesting tale– though notably, he has ditched his shoulder boards.

“Proletarians, to Horse Russian!” Soviet Republic. c. 1919 recruiting poster for Budyonnys Red Cavalry Konarmia

Budyonny was presented an engraved C96 in honor of his wartime service in 1921, and it is maintained in the Russian Army Museum, where it was placed after his death in 1973.

Nonetheless, the gun remained popular with Soviet officers into WWII, showing up occasionally with those who undoubtedly remembered the status symbol of 1918-20.

Russian Soviet Cossacks watering their horses in the Elbe river 1945. Note the distinctive Mauser C96 Broomhandle pistol holster on the Cossack colonel’s belt, which has been bedazzled. As he looks to be in his 50s, it is possible he dated to the old Konarmia days, or at least inherited it from someone who did. 

In addition, Spetnaz was schooled in the use of the vintage C96 during the Cold War, as the Broomhandle was expected to be encountered on the ground locally in the course of their operations in Asia and Africa on hearts and minds missions to support those in international brotherhood. 

Soviet Spetsnaz Special Operations in training 1980s C96 Mauser Broomhandle

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